Senators Delay Defense Trade Treaties

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee kicked consideration of two treaties to speed U.S. defense trade with Britain and Australia into next year because committee leaders said they hadn’t received enough information from the administration.

Since the majority of defense trade deals with the Britain and Australia are eventually approved, the treaties would allow vendors in the two countries access to a fast lane for consideration.

But the deals still require Senate approval, and for now, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee won’t move them ahead.

The committee chairman, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), who’s been busy running for vice president, and Sen. Dick Lugar of Indiana, the committee’s ranking Republican, back the concept of the treaties. The difficulty is over the details of how international defense trade rules need to be changed in order to implement the treaties.

Despite assurances from the administration, the senators told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a Sept. 17 letter that questions still linger.

“After a briefing session with committee staff in late August, the executive branch reviewed several matters relating to these draft amendments, and then just yesterday submitted an entirely new and substantially different proposal for amending the International Traffic in Arms Regulations,” the senators wrote. “These delays and shifting approaches to implementation have made it impossible for the committee to conduct a responsible review of the treaties and resolve members’ concerns during the short time remaining in the Senate’s current session.”